There are many benefits to using dual graphics cards, but there are also many drawbacks as well. If you clicked this article then I know you are curious about whether you should buy two GPUs, instead of buying just one.
However, this is not just a simple yes or no answer. It really depends on what you want to do with the extra graphics cards.
So, what are the benefits?
Dual GPUs allow for higher resolution, and faster FPS, and will keep up with new graphics advances in software. Using multiple GPUs will benefit computers meant for non-gaming purposes a lot more and can handle tasks such as video editing, and streaming a lot better than just using one GPU.
There are a lot of different details to point out as well as many advantages and disadvantages to using multiple graphics cards.
Keep reading as we go in-depth on whether it is worth it or not.
What Are The Requirements to Use Multiple Graphics Cards?
Before we get started you need to understand that there are a few requirements you need to meet before you are able to use more than one GPU in your computer setup.
Make sure you meet all these requirements before you go out and buy a second GPU, or else you could be wasting a ton of money.
1. Software To Link The Graphics Cards
The first thing you need is to install software that supports having multiple graphics cards. What this software do is connect both GPUs together to have one output.
Without this, your computer won’t know which graphics card to use when your computer is on so it will resort to only using one, or your programs won’t work at all.
This way once they are linked they work together and can complete one or multiple tasks at the same time.
The software you download depends on what type of graphics cards you are using.
If you are using AMD GPUs you will need to download AMD’s software called “Crossfire”.
On the other hand, if you are using two Nvidia cards you will need to download “SLI” support.
SLI and Crossfire are both essentially the same software they just have support for their own graphics cards.
Make sure you know which one is compatible with what GPUs you are using or else you will run into some compatibility issues.
2. Motherboard Compatibility.
Next, you need to make sure your Motherboard is compatible with using multiple GPUs at the same time.
The first thing you should look for is whether your motherboard has multiple PCI-e slots. If your motherboard doesn’t then either you won’t be able to use multiple graphics cards or one of your graphics cards will bottleneck the other.
There is a difference between a regular PCI slot and a PCI-e slot. The PCI-e slot will allow the graphics card to communicate with the motherboard at much faster speeds compared to a regular PCI slot.
If one GPU is plugged into a normal PCI slot and the other one is plugged into a PCI-e slot then the speed for both graphics cards will be reduced to the speed of the normal PCI slot.
To learn more about PCI-e slots check out this article on: “What is PCI Express?”
Second, even if your motherboard has enough PCI slots it still might not have support for multiple graphics cards.
The reason for this is that PCI slots are used for multiple different things not just GPUs. So, your motherboard might only have support for one GPU and the rest are meant for other hardware such as audio cards, streaming devices, Wifi cards, etc.
3. High-End Power Supply
GPUs are one of the most power-consuming components you have in your PC. Using a high-end graphics card can consume just under 500 watts of electricity. Now, imagine having two of those.
To keep up with the high wattage you need a high-end power supply that can support this much consumption.
With a dual graphics card setup you will need a power supply that supports around 1300-1500 watts.
Especially, with high-end builds, you need to go all out on the power supply you purchase and I would recommend getting at least a gold-certified one as it is a lot more energy efficient compared to bronze or silver certified.
4. Case Size
The Last thing to consider is your computer’s case size.
Graphics cards, especially high-end graphics cards tend to be very big and bulky making it almost impossible to fit two graphics cards in a small case.
If you are thinking about building a computer with multiple GPUs then you will need at least a mid-tower case. However, having a full-tower-sized computer case will guarantee whether both GPUs fit or not.
Before purchasing a computer case you can always look at the dimensions to see if they will be able to fit both of your GPUs inside.
What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Two Graphics Cards?
The next things to consider when thinking about switching to a dual GPU setup are the advantages and disadvantages.
You might think that using 2 graphics cards is better than using just 1. However, there are specific situations where it might actually be a disadvantage to using multiple GPUs.
Advantages of Using Multiple GPUs
The first advantage to using multiple GPUs is that you will be able to play games at higher resolutions.
Most graphics cards except for the really high-end ones are able to play games and watch videos at a base level of 1080p.
However, using multiple graphics cards will allow you to more than triple that resolution and play games at 4k with a stable frame rate.
Along with resolution, you will also be able to play games at a higher FPS. This is because there will be less stress on your graphics cards because they can share the load with each other.
In doing this the graphics cards will be able to work less and produce higher performance and FPS when playing games.
Dual Monitor Support
Yes, you can still use multiple monitors even if you have one GPU. However, it is much more effective to have two GPUs work with two monitors.
In doing this, you will be able to allocate one GPU per monitor which will shoot up your performance.
This is very common with streamers. If you look at a lot of successful video game streamers’ setups you will see they use multiple graphics cards for one PC.
This gives them higher-quality video and higher performance when streaming because one GPU is focused on the stream’s performance while the other one is focused on the game’s performance.
You Have a Backup GPU
The final advantage to having a multi-GPU setup is that you will always have a back GPU.
If for whatever reason one of your graphics cards breaks. You will be able to game and use your computer with the second GPU until you either replace or purchase a new graphics card.
Disadvantages of Using Multiple GPUs
GPUs Are Expensive
One big downside to using multiple GPUs is that they are very expensive, especially right now.
If you are looking to buy a high-end GPU you are looking upwards of around $1500, now multiply that by 2.
If you want a high-end computer build you are going to be paying around $3000 for the graphics cards alone; which means in the end the price of your computer is going to be the equivalent of purchasing a used car.
Now, what if you aren’t thinking about purchasing top-notch graphics cards?
For a mid-range graphics card, you are looking at anywhere between $500-$700 per graphics card.
At this point, it will be a smarter decision to purchase just one high-quality graphics card with the same money.
In most cases having one high-quality graphics card will provide better quality than using two low to median-quality graphics cards.
Your performance will be the same if not better with the high-end card.
Dual GPUs Aren’t Compatible With All Games
Depending on what types of games you like to play using dual GPUs might not even benefit you as some games don’t have support for multiple graphics card use, and in some instances can actually decrease performance.
It is important to check what specs are required for the types of games you like and check if they support multi-GPU use. If not then you won’t be able to have the benefits of using multiple graphics cards.
GPUs Use a lot of Power
We touched on this earlier in the article, but we will go into a bit more detail here.
As you know a graphics card tends to use a lot of power so that it can run, and using two will require you to have a very powerful power supply so you don’t fry your system.
You need to remember that the electricity is coming from your house, and can become very expensive over months and months of use.
In the long term, this can cost you thousands of dollars if you are not careful so if you are using multiple GPUs don’t forget about a high-quality PSU.
Could Bottleneck Your System
having multiple graphics cards can provide you with a big performance upgrade, but you will only be able to experience this performance boost if the rest of your system can keep up.
If you have an old CPU, then your graphics cards will have to slow down in order for your CPU to keep up creating a bottleneck.
Before you spend the money on multiple GPUs make sure the rest of your system is up to date as well.
To learn more about computer bottlenecking check out: “How to Tell if Your Computer is Bottlenecking.”
Dual graphics card setups are not for everybody and if you are not a streamer or complete multiple tasks at once there is really no point in having a dual graphics card setup.
Instead, you should use the money that you would use on a second GPU to either purchase a better GPU or upgrade the rest of your system.
So are multi-GPU systems worth it? No.